We had a rather uneventful cab ride to the airport, checked our bags, went through the Euro version of TSA, which used to be far more relaxed then ours, but things have changed, and we had to pull our cameras out of our bags and I had to remove the entire contents of my carry on. It was OK, just a pain to deal with.
I kind of smuggled a little fois gras, in one of my carry ons, which we had for lunch on the plane. YUM.
Our last day to do things … We had plans to visit two small galleries, but realized they were closed on Mondays. Darn. We milled around, doing a bit of last minute shopping, photos and dinner. We had to pack and be ready to get going first thing in the morning for the long trek home. It’s been a fun trip, in spite of the drizzle and drama.
Funny story … a few trips ago, in 2006, we were in Paris, walking along the street and a woman was picking up a ring and asked if it was mine. I said it wasn’t mine, but she had a story I don’t retain about it being mine and she insisted I take it. Somehow the story lead to her wanting some money and I don’t recall why, but I gave her some and we walked away, me with the ring. Seb immediately said it was a scam, which I was also sure it was too, but I had the ring and chalked it off that it cost me a few Euros. At least the story was inventive. So, this trip, we were walking along the street and Seb notice the same woman picking up a ring and talking to some people. We couldn’t believe it … after all these years, she’s still pulling the same scam. A few days later, we were walking toward the Place Vendome and there she was again. We breezed past the woman and her victims, a group of women who were obviously on vacation from somewhere in the US. We got past them and I couldn’t let them fall prey to her, so I started to walk back and one of the women looked at me and I motioned to her. She came closer and I told her she’s a fraud and had scammed me years ago. She yelled back to the group, “It’s a scam!” The woman darted away and the group came to thank me. We talked for a bit, took photos of each other and parted. They were on their way to Chanel. I hope the all got something nice with the extra money I saved them from the gypsy ring woman.
We managed to get up at 5.30, got ready, left, picked up the car and we were on our way. I was driving, Seb was navigating. It was still dark and Sunday morning, so there wasn’t a lot of traffic, which was great. I’m not sure I’d be good driving in Paris traffic,, which is made up mostly of impatient cab drivers. To top it off, there was an Avis sticker on the back of the car, which screamed “TOURIST”.
We did fairly well until we got onto the freeway. We were looking for exit 219 to get onto another freeway. Sounds easy, right? We were watching the signs … 214, 215, 216, 223. HEY!!! What happened to 219? Did we miss something??? Turning around in France is never easy. We exited, but then we were on another freeway with no exits in sight. We finally found one, took it and were in a residential neighborhood trying to find out how to get back on the 2nd freeway to get us back to the 1st freeway, to get back into town, so we could turn around and find the right exit. What a mess. We managed to get back to our freeway starting point and re-traced our steps (I love the roundabouts in Europe. They give you a chance to re-group and get it together before taking one of the turn offs.) So, we ended up taking the wrong turn off, but guess what? It turned out to be right. The written directions were actually wrong. URG.
It took us over 4 hours to get there, but we were still happy and ready to meet our new friends. We talked on the phone and John was meeting us at the end of the toll road in a ’59 two tone green Bentley. There he was! We shook hands, hugged and agreed to follow him to the train station to drop off our car.
We went to the train station and there was no Avis drop off place, no Avis sign, nothing. We went inside and there was only one woman behind the counter (Saumur is a small town) and she was helping someone else … for about 30 minutes. It’s amazing to me how French people will object about waiting, but only with a muffled “phhhhhh” sound. F I N A L L Y, we were up. She said, “The Avis place had closed a long time ago.”
Now we weren’t sure what to do with this car, and we wanted to spend time with John and Peter, not diddle around trying to figure out where to leave this stupid car. I called the phone number on the rental agreement and got a recording … in French. I asked the woman behind the counter if she’d be kind enough to listen and tell me what it said. She said, “They’re closed.” I knew this was wrong because I’d specifically asked before we took the car if they were opened on Sunday, and I was assured they were. I called the concierge at the hotel and he said, “They are there, but they just don’t answer the phone.” Great. Now what??? I called the Internationa Avis number and got a rep in the US. He asked for the number on the contract, which I gladly gave him. He couldn’t find it in their system. He asked for the number on the car key, which I gave him, and he didn’t show that car in their system. Then he said, “Well, it looks like you’ll just have to drive that car back to Paris.” I said there was no way I was going to drive back into Pari in traffic with people returning home after a weekend … in the dark. It had taken us an hour to leave Paris, Lord knows how long it would have taken to get back to our hotel. Pass. I called American Experss (our saviours) and they said they would be happy to set-up a complaint, but the charge would have to be billed to our account first.
So, we decided to follow John to their home and we’d have lunch and then figure out what to do with the car.
We went to their home, hung out and all searched on line for another optional place to drop that car. I also called the hotel concierge again, explained what happened, and he suggested we drop it at the Anger train station, which was about 40 minutes away.
We went to a lovely little restaurant along the river and had a very tasty Moroccan dinner. In most of France, Sunday lunch is dinner and after that, most all restaurants are closed … except in large cities, which this was not. After eating, John drove us around the countryside in the Bentley and it was fun to explore the small country roads in this beautiful (and large) car. We had plans to go to a monthly flea market, but because of the stupid car incident, we didn’t have time. We headed back to their place, hung out a little more and then had to leave to drive to Anger to drop the car and take the train back to Paris.
John parked the Bentley and decided to drive the Mercedes instead. I’m so glad he decided to help us get to the train station. It was very convoluted and it would have taken forever to get there. We arrived, the rental car lot was full and the rental agency (both Hertz and Avis) was closed, but had a drop box. I wrote a note which stall the car was in, put it into the envelope with the key, dropped it in the slot and went inside the train station. The next train was fully booked, so we had to wait for the next one, but insisted John not wait for us. He’d been too kind already. We said good bye, he left and we hung out for the next train.
We got to Paris, took a cab to the hotel and went to bed. What a long involved day, but lunch with Peter and John was worth it. They’re a lovely couple who met on the Internet … just like Seb and me. We’re a rare breed to have met and stayed together as partners for years … them for 7 years, us for 14.
Today, we decided to go to Pere Lachaise (the main cemetery in Paris). It’s large, it’s opulent, and it’s filled with famous and wealthy people. Americans go to see Jim Morrison’s plot, but we couldn’t figure out why. His headstone is really simple and squeezed in between some others, off the beaten path, and had a lot of things left by fans, so it was a bit on the trashy side too.
We saw Oscar Wilde’s, Chopin, Edith Piaf, Rossini, Houseman, Maria Callas and more. It’s so large, they sell maps and it’s a fun adventure … well worth the time and effort.
After that, we arranged a car rental to drive South of Paris the next day to Saumur (So muer). We asked the concierge and he made a call to Hertz, which we usually use because of our Gold membership, which cuts costs and gives us a free upgrage. The price for a car for ONE DAY was 600€, which is closer to $800!!!! I gasped, so he asked for a smaller car and said a Mercedes E Class would be 400€. I gasped again and he remembered a friend who had a quasi Avis location that would be about 130€. Way too expensive, but we took it. The plan was to leave it in Saumur at the train station there, where we were meeting two new friends, John and Peter, introduced by our friend Diane in Portland. She knew John from the Rolls-Royce club and had travelled and gone to events together for years. We decided to do down for the day, have lunch and get to know each other. We arranged the car and were all set to pick it up about 7am the next morning and with a drop fee, it was OK to leave it at the train station at the Avis part of the train station.
Later that evening, we went to dinner at the home of one of our Musync reps, Thierry and his wife Florence, who has a business helping people find rentals in Paris, or learning French, or basically anything people might need from a reputable local in Paris. We had an amazing meal and a fun, fun time. They both speak great English and we never ran out of things to talk about. We left at 2am. (Remember, we had to leave for Saumur at 7am, which meant getting up at about 5.30am.)
We had two more train travel days and originally thought we’d go to Dijon or Lyon for the day. It’s a long way, but on the TGV, it’s not, and with our Eurail Passes, it’s free. Denys recommended Lille, because there’s a unique art gallery there and something different for a day trip. The gallery is called La Pescine and is an old public swimming pool that was purchased and turned into an art gallery. It was a long trek for it, but it was fun and one of those things that most people won’t find.
We milled around the city after words, and took photos, had lunch, walked around some more and took more photos. Then we went back to Paris. It was a fun day.
As I mentioned yesterday, I went back to the Goyard store and purchased my wallet. Thankfully, they’re cheaper than in the US, and they also qualify for a VAT refund. We don’t all realize how much taxes are in Europe … now around 20%!!!, but as a US resident, we can fill out a form and get a refund on it. It’s worth knowing about.
Later, we had lunch with a friend we met last year. It’s a long story, but in a nutshell, we just clicked and have been email friends, so we met at an amazing institution in Paris, Café Madeleine. WOW. It used to be a tearoom, but it’s become very popular for breakfast and lunch. Their hot chocolate is supposed to be amazing too, but we didn’t try it. We did, however have a fois gras salad and an amazing desert. I didn’t feel comfortable taking too many photos here, so for more, click here: www.angelina-paris.fr.
After lunch, we bid Denys good bye, we headed over to the Louvre. I’ve been there once before, but Seb had not. It was so busy, it nearly took the fun out of going. We thought it would be the perfect thing to do on a drizzly day, and apparently, so did everyone else.
We had more fun taking photos outside after it closed.
Then we walked around, shooting more photos along the way … one of our favorite pastimes.
We started getting hungry and had passed by a resto that featured seafood, Flottes, so decided to give it a try. We had some oysters and a glass of wine, then went to another favorite bistro L’Entracte. It’s near the Opera Garnier and was featured on a travel show. It’s nothing over the top, but the prices are good and the roast chicken and steak tartar are both really good. It was perfect.